Moving forward: Silver Linings

Kathleen Garnett

For many of us the past few days have been painful. Brexit crushes our hopes and plans and lingers, like a smudge of polluting fume, on the horizon for the foreseeable future. For the first four days post-Brexit, I, like so many in the UK felt angry and bitter with the unholy mess Cameron, Johnson and Farage have landed us and Europe in. I am not so much beginning to come to terms with the outcome but beginning to see a way forward and hoping that this might end, not in tears, but in a sensible outcome for everyone. But first, if you will, allow me a five minute rant to get a few things of my chest. If you’ve had enough of rants (and who can blame you!) scroll down to Moving Forward.


The damp dish-cloth

I am angry with Cameron for foisting this wholly unnecessary referendum on the nation simply because he didn’t have the guts and stamina to stand up to the bullying Eurosceptics in his party. He is worse than an unpleasant, scrunched-up dishcloth discarded on the surface of a communal kitchen for 18 year old under-graduates. In the high-risk gamble of EU referenda Cameron, down at the Casino Royal, put all his chips on the table with a simple majority “in” “out” referendum and lost. All of it. He will forever go down in history as the ultimate loser – all his other achievements forgotten. I do not, however, wish a plague of locusts on his house. He has done the honourable thing and fallen on his sword. Let us airbrush memories of him from our minds and move on.

The Johnsonian Lie

I am still livid with Boris Johnson for lying so blatantly throughout the whole campaign. I wish a plague of locusts on his house because he of all people is fully aware that he is being deceptive and that good people are placing all their faith in him. Even on Friday morning when he appeared for the first time after Vote Leave had won the referendum, he had the audacity to stand in front of the world’s press and talk about a “federal” EU. Now, it may sound like a trifling, quibbling matter but to announce in his “educated” baritone voice that the UK would be leaving a federation is not a mere technicality or a frilly term used to improve his prose. It is a lie. Plain and simple and designed to reinforce voter’s views that they have left behind an oppressive political union imposing laws on the good man of England.

Let me be clear: The EU is not a federation, it has never been a federation, it does not claim to be a federation and there are no immediate plans on the table to make it a federation. His wife, a QC and constitutional expert, knows this is a lie and did not correct him. It was an archetypel Johnsonian lie that typified the way this campaign has been fought – designed to befuddle and confuse emotional minds and to reinforce prejudice not explain facts. He and his side-kick lackey, Gove, cynically took the nation’s lack of knowledge over the EU and twisted it until it was as bent and twisted as they are. If ever there is a man who has put personal gain above national interest the former Mayor of London is it. It is my most fervent hope that he never becomes party leader of the Conservative Party. He, along with Gove, is a dishonourable man and should be kicked into the long grass and forgotten.

The hidden fascist

I find Nigel Farage nauseous. He is the new, vile, vulgar and vitriolic face of Vote Leave. He is the face of fascism, xenophobia and hate all wrapped up in a flammable St George’s flag atop a silly tin-foil Union Jack party hat .

The petty busy-body

Jeremy Corbyn’s half-hearted, lacklustre leadership during the campaign has gifted UKIP whole swathes of safe Labour seats. I am not the least bit surprised Corbyn has lost a vote of confidence amongst his colleagues. They could all be out of a job, handing the responsibility over to Farage’s right-wing fascist movement. The sooner Corbyn goes the better – yet he, like all the other villain’s in this sorry tale, is too arrogant and self-interested to see the writing on the wall. He clings to leadership like a blood-sucking leech refusing to accept that those who once voted for him with so much faith in their thousands – young people – feel the most betrayed by his half-hearted support for the EU.

Silver Linings

Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday messages of “stay calm”, “don’t panic” and “every cloud has a silver lining” although well intentioned were hardly reassuring. I, like millions of others, just could not see how losing to Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson had a silver lining. We saw first hand, the predicted crisis unfold before our very eyes: acts of violence against foreigners; the currency devalued, the Union breaking up – where in God’s name is the silver lining in that ? How can anyone stay calm when the months ahead look like an endless round of confusion, instability and volatility with no end in sight?

Some of you may have read another piece I wrote before the referendum “Get out of my Life! But first give me a good trade deal!” comparing Brexit to an irrational teenager. Right now we are in the situation where Brexit has slammed the door shut and is hiding in their room for having smashed the system  and are figuring out how to re-emerge in a dignified way. The good news is that most teen-agers do get over their humpf, they move on and ruffled feathers on both sides can be smoothed. Teenagers do learn lessons from their mistakes and do begin to understand that hiding in the room is no way to move forward. For this reason Angela Merkel is right. No concessions to sulky teenagers – but – do give them the space and the time to figure out where they went wrong before rushing head-loing into any rash decisions.

Moving Forward

No more Referendums. No more Petitions.

Referendums may be the purest form of democracy but like pure oxygen they are volatile and explosive. They should be treated with the utmost caution and handled with care. The British EU referendum will go down in history as the text book example of how not to conduct a referendum. It has divided once harmonious and loving families. It has torn our peaceful country in two. We see the ugly face of racism finding a democratic legitimacy for their acts of hate and violence. 16 million people’s voices – many of them young – are not accounted for and they feel bitter and disenfranchised.

Imagine, for a moment though, that the result had swung the other way: 52% for Remain – 48% for Leave. The question of our membership of the EU would still not be put to bed definitively. The Vote Leave rump would be out in force demanding a re-run. They would continue to agitate and speak even more menacingly about immigrants, unelected bureaucrats and freedom for shackled Little Englanders.

The silver lining in this whole cloudy storm is that many people in the UK are beginning to realise for the very first time the real, not imaginary benefits, of being an active, engaged member of the European Union. Many are beginning to realise that we need to be a part of the EU if we are to prosper and stay safe in an increasingly volatile world. They are beginning to see that neither Boris Johnson nor Nigel Farage are to be trusted in their promises and that there is no intellectual depth to their assertions. None of this would have happened had Remain won the referendum. Vote Leave would have continued to peddle their nonsense stories of a dastardly evil EU empire and many good, sensible people would still believe them. This whole sorry episode in our nation’s history would be going on … and on … and on… and on.

For this reason I do not think we should have a second referendum.

More Parliamentary democracy

What we need is a snap general election within six months with two new party leaders. I sincerely hope that both parties choose their new leaders wisely. Very few Parliamentarians want the UK to leave the EU. The vast majority – across the political spectrum – wanted the UK to remain in the EU and they still do. The next general election can be fought on the benefits of our continued membership of the EU. This time the debate, hopefully, will be more informed and less full of hate and lies. The new party leaders must speak positively, with conviction and with confidence – not half-heartedly – about the benefits of the EU. There is so much positive to report – it must be given airspace next time around. They new leaders must show how the EU is democratic, how it respects the rule of law and how it shares our British values of openness and fair play. They must have the confidence to talk honestly and openly about the benefits of EU immigration from both skilled and low skilled workers and to distinguish EU immigrants from non-EU immigrants. They must highlight that Britain does, in fact, have control over our borders.

We can only hope that second time round the nation will have a more dignified, more informed debate between sensible politicians and not an undignified cat-fight between big bruisers out for a head-line not a proper government policy. What ever the outcome of the general election and which ever party is in charge the new government will have a new, more substantial, democratic mandate on how to proceed with our European neighbours and partners.

I hope that this would be to remain an active and influential, fully paid-up member of the EU with all the benefits of staying in the club and not some half-baked Association Agreement that fails to be in the best interests of the United Kingdom. I hope that we could then put Eurosceptisim to bed once and for all and move forward critically and thoughtfully not constantly questioning the very legitimacy of the EU.

The press must also behave more responsibly. It should be held to account if it allows its commentators and editorials to tell outright lies and it must not stoke emotions by publishing pieces that fire up the electorate’s emotions and not their common sense. UKIP should not be head-line news. Report on them, yes – but do not give them the oxygen to expand their racism and hate. They are not in government and they only have one seat in Westminster. They do not deserve the oxygen of publicity that gives succour to latent, violent tendencies.

The immediate months ahead will be sobering for many in the UK. The economic crisis will linger like a bad smell over our nation unless and until we can form a new government that is given a clear, democratic mandate for the UK to stay on as an active member of the EU influencing from within. Of course none of this might come to pass – but it is not unreasonable to hope that there are still plenty of politicians left who have their heads firmly screwed on and who will be able to steer us through this crisis with confidence and hope.





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